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Robert Abrams
The World Trade Center and 9/11
United States
New York City
New York
New York, NY

Editorial: 9/11 one year later.

by Robert Abrams
September 10, 2002
New York, NY

Editorial: 9/11 one year later.

September 10, 2002

New York City remembers a dark day tomorrow.

But this is not the first dark day New York City has experienced, whether by design or by accident. June 15, 1904 was another such day. 1,021 out of 1,358 passengers on the General Slocum excursion ferry perished when the boat caught fire in Hell's Gate. This disaster had a major effect on the composition of New York City. Most of the passengers were from a section of the Lower East Side then known as Little Germany. This well established community never recovered from the disaster, and eventually the center of German life in New York moved uptown to Yorkville. While fewer people perished in the wreck of the General Slocum than on 9/11, the population of New York City was a great deal smaller in 1904, so proportionally, the death tolls are quite similar. And yet, many people have forgotten that this tragedy even happened.

The point here, first of all, is that remembering is an active obligation. It is one of those things that, as far as we know, sets humanity apart from other species. Remembering is not easy, and over the long term it is very fallible, but remembering is nonetheless an obligation.

Remembering by itself is not enough. We must learn from our mistakes. One can only hope that people in 1904 learned something from the General Slocum that made boats safer. Survivors then had to make choices about how to preserve the fabric of their lives, just as New York City residents, especially those in the emerging downtown area residential district, have had to make similar choices in the past year. Eventually choices will be made about how to rebuild on the World Trade Center site - life will slowly return to the area the way it always does in New York: shoots of green pushing through the pavement.

What can we, as dancers, do to remember 9/11 and learn from the experience? I would like to propose two modest courses of action. The first falls mostly on owners of dance venues and studios. The second can be carried out by anyone.

It was recently reported in the New York Times (NY Times, September 9, 2002, "

9/11 Prompts New Caution in Skyscraper Design", by ERIC LIPTON and JAMES GLANZ) that many new buildings being constructed in New York City have added additional measures to make the buildings safer in the event of an emergency. One example may be relevant to existing buildings. AOL Time Warner's new headquarters is installing a "communications system that should allow firefighters, rescue workers and building tenants to complete calls even during emergencies." I would urge owners and organizers of dance venues to look into how well firefighters and others can communicate in their buildings during emergencies, and to develop a plan to upgrade the communications capabilities of their buildings.

Communication is a necessary precondition for human relations. By the simple act of travel, anyone can be an ambassador for those qualities, such as respect and discipline, which dance can embody. And while you are there, where ever there may be, find somewhere to dance, write a paragraph or two about the experience, and send it to us.

So tomorrow, and this coming year, remember and act on the memory. Your dancing may be richer with meaning as a result. The world certainly will be.


Robert Abrams
Editor, ExploreDance.com

You can find more 9/11 reflections here.

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